You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

October 24, 2005

Take Back Your Time Day — it’s for lawyers, too

Filed under: pre-06-2006 — David Giacalone @ 1:06 pm

Across the nation, today, people are “celebrating” Take Back Your Time Day.

“40 Is Enough” is this year’s theme, as the Nation commemorates the 65th

anniversary of the 40-hour work week statute.


According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “A survey by the Families and Work

Institute in New York found that 1 in 3 Americans feels chronically overworked,

and a study by the American Sleep Institute found that 50 percent of Americans

would be willing to work fewer hours for less pay. (, “Overworked No

More,” Oct. 22, 2005)


pocketwatchS Of course, lawyers love to see themselves as especially overworked, over-

stressed, and beset by life balance issues — and far too many are.  I just want to point

out that a very large percentage of adults (and children) in our nation feels the same

pressures.   Joining with them in the broader movement may be the best way to

change the policies and values that make us a nation that overworks, over-consumes,

and does a lot more talking about family values than living them. 

tiny check TBYT Day is is a project of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Social

Policy (CRESP).atCornell University and an initiative of The Simplicity Forum. 

The philosophy of the TBYT movement is a good one. As they say:


work is essential to happiness. But American life has gotten way out

of balance. Producing and consuming more have become the single-minded

obsession of the American economy, while other values — strong families

and communities, good health and a clean environment, active citizenship

and social justice, time for nature and the soul — are increasingly neglected.”

Their legislative agenda makes sense:  The campaign, dubbed “Time to Care,” calls

on political leaders for action in the following areas:

Guaranteeing paid childbirth leave for all parents. Today, only 40% of

Americans are able to take advantage of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave

provided by the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.


medbag Guaranteeing at least one week of paid sick leave for all workers.

Many  Americans work while sick, lowering productivity and endangering

other workers.


Guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid annual vacation leave for all 

workers. Studies show that 28% of all female employees and 37% of

women earning less than $40,000 a year receive no paid vacation at all.


Placing a limit on the amount of compulsory overtime work that an

employer can impose, with our goal being to give employees the right to

accept or refuse overtime work.


Making Election Day a holiday, with the understanding that Americans

need time for civic and political participation.


Making it easier for Americans to choose part-time work. Hourly wage

parity and protection of promotions and pro-rated benefits for part-time


They have a downloadable Endorsement Form/Petition on their Public Policy page.



Of course, “taking back” your time implies action and often courage in the workplace —

and, tellingly, a willingness to consume less.  (See, e.g., this article at the Greenwich

Time, “Families Struggle to balance downtime with high expectations,” Oct. 23, 2005).

As we said earlier this year: If young lawyers want to work saner schedules but don’t

want to sacrifice income or “prestige,” they need to stop whining and realize that they

are part of the problem   And, despite the prophets who curse the billable hours, I

continue to believe that:

“[F]rom the perspective of the overworked associate or partner, there is nothing

wrong with the billable hour fee system that is not very likely to be carried over

to any alternative billing arrangements, if the firm expects the shift to be made

without reducing its income or profits.”  [see chronomentrophobia ]

At the TBYT website, you can find almost 20 great posters to download, if you need

some graphic inspiration to join the cause (and start reassessing your life).  I like

“More Time. Less Stuff”; “Medieval Peasants Worked Less than You Do;” and both

of the posters that say “Home Alone Again” and picture sad doggies. 


tbyt  For more reading on the topic, you might want to check out the poll results

in this 2003 survey“Americans Eager to Take Back Their Time: Over Half Would

Trade a Day’s Pay for Less Work, Less Stress.”  Those willing to make a bigger

time commitment (that’s you, right?) should check out the book called the TBYT

Jon de Graaf, editor 2003). De Graaf is also a contirubtor and the editor of the book

tiny check For those who might need a vinous connection to get them

interested: Take Back Your Time joined in a partnership with Beringer

Founders’ Estate Wines to promote the “LIVING 5to9” campaign, en-

couraging better work-life balance in America.  You can go to the site

and make a pledge to take back a number of hours per day/year.  The

total pledge will be announced today (Oct. 24th).  As of 11 AM, EST,

over 2.6 million hours had been pledged. 


Do you think there would be more or less wine (and other spirits)  breadwine neg

consumed in America if people worked less, but were less stressed?

Younger lawyers and partners have to work together to create better lives

within the legal profession, by reducing the focus on profits and income (see

Adam Smith Esq post and ours).   We should also do our part in the broader

society — using our legislative and lobbying ability to help make the TBYT

agenda a reality.  Most important, we always have the obligation to ourselves

and our families to do more than talk about balancing life and work.  It comes

down to personal choice.  Mine is clearly to have less work and less stuff.  If

I were in San Francisco today, I’d also join the nap-in at 1 p.m. at Justin

Herman Plaza. 



hand to hand–

the unframed photos

of her life



the sound they make

the sound I make

autumn leaves







yesterday’s paper

in the next seat–

the train picks up speed







before the dew is off–

he pulls his son

in the new red wagon






up late–

the furnace come on

by it self






  • by dagosan                                               

rearview mirror–

the baby face

is gone



                          [Oct 24, 2005]




No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress